Way back in 2018, I wrote a post about Merfolk in Romance and included what was then a webtoon publishing on Tapas, The Sea in You. Five years later--dang, I've been at this for a while--Iron Circus is publishing it in all its sapphic underwater glory! This full-color book is out in March, 2023.
This is a loose retelling of The Little Mermaid, so there comes a point where one character gives up her voice. Corinth's mother is deaf and the family speaks American Sign Language. Skylla is eager to learn everything about humans, including spoken English and ASL.
Corinth's awful boyfriend Seth? Not so interested. CW: abuse.
Corinth is a cute, curvy goth girl and after being bullied at her last school, she struggles to find her people at her new high school. Seth, a goth dingleberry and lead singer of a band of not-dingleberries, follows standard abuser protocol: identify an insecure girl and convince her all you need is each other. Seth has an abusive father and has (unintentionally) learned to follow the pattern. He routinely makes a big deal of any perceived slight, like if Corinth doesn't text him back within 3 minutes. Things escalate as Corinth builds a relationship with Skylla and eventually Corinth realizes how controlling and manipulative Seth is.
Skylla experiences abuse as well. Her many sisters are obsessed with strength and see Skylla as weak and in need of toughening up. She's forced to defend herself and Corinth a few times and ultimately she learns she also needs to break an abusive cycle. Unlike her sisters, her parents are supportive of her. And unlike her sisters, Skylla prefers to eat hamburgers over humans.
As you might expect, communication and cultural differences are major themes in The Sea in You. One of the things that makes the story so warm is how Sheron decided to use their communication issues as a way for the characters to bond rather than to create distance between them.
Skylla says at one point, "Even with my sisters, so many, but non understand me. Maybe I am just wrong. Wrong at words, wrong at understanding, hatched wrong."
Corinth points out, "Understanding others is hard. Humans have a hard time with it even when we know all the same words. I feel like all I do is mess up at it, too."
There are some things that don't quite make sense, however. When the book opens, we learn that Skylla knows how to speak because she listened to people on boats for years, but she gets upset when Corinth laughs because she interprets the baring of teeth as an attempt to scare her. Surely, if Skylla had learned an entire language by observing humans, she'd have learned or at least gotten used to some of our mannerisms. (This is a mermaid story though, so we're already suspending our disbelief.)
The relationship between Corinth and Skylla is one of friendship that grows into something romantic as the book goes on, but Corinth doesn't cheat on Seth. Romance readers will want to know that the book doesn't feel quite complete, in fact it ends with, "The End. For now..."
At its heart, The Sea in You is a queer, inclusive, modern take on The Little Mermaid with a focus on communication and liberation from interpersonal violence. Don't worry, it's also really funny.
If you'd like to purchase a copy of this book, please consider using the Amazon link to support the site or from Iron Circus after release to best support the indie comics we love!
Check out a few preview pages below!